Americans spend eight hours a month on Facebook. And now, thanks to research by a team of university professors, we know better than ever why we just can't quit the habit.

A new study suggests we use the social media site to cure a simple ailment: boredom. In addition to satisfying our "entertainment" needs, Facebook also attracts us by providing an outlet for "interpersonal communication" and "self-expression," according to the researchers' report.

The study, published in the Journal of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, suggests that personality type determines how an individual uses social media and that the reason for engaging with Facebook can fluctuate over time.

ReadWriteWeb writes in its summary of the Facebook study:

Researchers have long known that five broad categories drive online activity: information seeking, interpersonal communication, self-expression, passing time and entertainment. In the study led by Hunt, the goal was to see if the same measures drove people to spend time on Facebook. The study confirmed that, with the exception of information seeking, all of the other behavioral factors that drive online activity hold true for Facebook, with entertainment and time passing being two of the biggest drivers of Facebook activity.

Researchers Daniel Hunt, Archana Krishnan, and David Atkin found that, “The entertainment motive was shown to be the most powerful predictor of how much time participants spent on Facebook,” per WebProNews. In basic terms, this means that during the study, Facebook was most often used when subjects were bored, opposed to connecting with individuals to cultivate relationships.

The study was completed by surveying 417 undergraduate students and was first published this June.

Research was based in uses and gratification theory, which argues that the audience (or Facebook user) is not passive but instead "using" media for their specific needs. In other words, if we're bored, we use the media to be entertained and if we are looking for information, we interact with the media to find what we need.

But what if we grow too accustomed to constantly being connected, filling our minds with entertaining or pointless facts? Do we really need to stalk our latest crush for 26 minutes via Facebook when bored?

Another well-known communications theory explored by educator Neil Postman suggests that an increase in technology has caused us to perpetually be "amusing ourselves to death." Postman hints at our need for entertainment by examining the information we typically absorb.

"[M]ost of our daily news is inert, consisting of information that gives us something to talk about but cannot lead to any meaningful action," he says in his book "Amusing Ourselves to Death," arguing that "what we desire will ruin us."

Melodramatic as this may sound, his study took place in 1985, before the rise of Facebook, Twitter, or the smartphone.

While the focus of Hunt's study was more qualitative, he too wonders how digital behaviors will affect society.

"We imagine that young people today are media and technologically literate because they have grown up in a computer-mediated world but, anecdotally, many educators would say that this is not the case," he said in an email to The Huffington Post.

Will Facebook turn us into a "Brave New World" society? Hunt et al.'s study might suggest we linger online to be continuously entertained, other social media mavens hope to alter this habit. Waywire, a new video-sharing site expected to be launched in late summer, will have a focus on "social do-gooders from the millennial generation" to promote change in society (and fight against Postman's bleak predictions).

Other users say they aren't just bored when they access Facebook; they are bored with Facebook itself. In fact, Bianca Bosker reported for The Huffingon Post in June that there has been a recent drop in the time spent on the social media site.

What do you think about our Facebook habits and the constant need to be entertained? Do you think there has been an increase in our desire for amusement and information consumption -- and can this be blamed on Facebook usage? Let us know your thoughts below, or tweet us at @HuffPostTech.

Related on HuffPost:

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  • Your Birth Date And Place

    While it might be nice to hear from Facebook well-wishers on your birthday, you should think twice before posting your full birthday. Beth Givens, executive director of the <a href="http://www.privacyrights.org/" target="_hplink">Privacy Rights Clearinghouse</a> <a href="http://finance.yahoo.com/family-home/article/110674/6-things-you-should-never-reveal-on-facebook">advises</a> that revealing your exact birthday and your place of birth is like handing over your financial security to thieves. Furthermore, Carnegie Mellon researchers recently <a href="http://arstechnica.com/tech-policy/news/2009/07/social-insecurity-numbers-open-to-hacking.ars" target="_hplink">discovered</a> that they could reconstruct social security numbers using an individual's birthday and place of birth. Rather than remove your birthday entirely, you could enter a date that's just a few days off from your real birthday.

  • Your Mother's Maiden Name

    "Your mother’s maiden name is an especially valuable bit of information, not least since it’s often the answer to security questions on many sites," writes the <em><a href="http://bucks.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/10/12/what-not-to-tell-facebook-friends/?src=tptw" target="_hplink">New York Times</a></em>. Credit card companies, your wireless service provider, and numerous other firms frequently rely on this tidbit to protect your personal information.

  • Your Home Address

    Publicizing your home address enables everyone and anyone with whom you've shared that information to see where you live, from exes to employers. Opening up in this way could have negative repercussions: for example, there have been instances in which <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/02/17/please-rob-me-site-tells_n_465966.html" target="_hplink">burglars have used Facebook to target users</a> who said they were not at home.

  • Your Long Trips Away From Home

    Don't post status updates that mention when you will be away from home, <a href="http://bucks.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/09/15/dont-tell-facebook-friends-that-youre-going-away/" target="_hplink">advises</a> <em>New York Times</em> columnist Ron Lieber. When you broadcast your vacation dates, you might be telling untrustworthy Facebook "friends" that your house is empty and unwatched. "[R]emind 'friends' that you have an alarm or a guard dog," Lieber writes.

  • Your Short Trips Away From Home

    Although new features like Facebook Places encourage you to check in during outings and broadcast your location (be it at a restaurant, park, or store), you might think twice even before sharing information about shorter departures from your home. "Don’t post messages such as 'out for a run' or 'at the mall shopping for my sweetie,'" Identity Theft 911 <a href="http://identitytheft911.com/company/press/release.ext?sp=11132" target="_hplink">cautions</a>. "Thieves could use that information to physically break in your house."

  • Your Inappropriate Photos

    By now, nearly everyone knows that racy, illicit, or otherwise incriminating photos posted on Facebook can cost you a job (or worse). But even deleted photos could come back to haunt you. Ars Technica recently <a href="http://arstechnica.com/web/news/2010/10/facebook-may-be-making-strides.ars" target="_hplink">discovered</a> that Facebook's servers can store deleted photos for an unspecified amount of time. "It's possible," a Facebook spokesperson <a href="http://arstechnica.com/web/news/2010/10/facebook-may-be-making-strides.ars" target="_hplink">told</a> Ars Technica, "that someone who previously had access to a photo and saved the direct URL from our content delivery network partner could still access the photo."

  • Confessionals

    Flubbing on your tax returns? Can't stand your boss? Pulled a 'dine and dash?' Don't tell Facebook. The site's privacy settings allow you to control with whom you share certain information--for example, you can create a Group that consists only of your closest friends--but, once posted, it can be hard to erase proof of your illicit or illegal activities, and difficult to keep it from spreading. There are countless examples of workers getting the axe for oversharing on Facebook, as well as many instances in which <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/08/16/arrested-over-facebook-po_n_683160.html" target="_hplink">people have been arrested</a> for information they shared on the social networking site. (Click <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/07/26/fired-over-facebook-posts_n_659170.html" target="_hplink">here</a> to see a few examples of Facebook posts that got people canned.)

  • Your Phone Number

    Watch where you post your phone number. Include it in your profile and, depending on your privacy settings, even your most distant Facebook "friends" (think exes, elementary school contacts, friends-of-friends) might be able to access it and give you a ring. Sharing it with Facebook Pages can also get you in trouble. Developer Tom Scott created an app called <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/05/24/evil-facebook-app-exposes_n_587144.html" target="_hplink">Evil</a> that displays phone numbers published anywhere on Facebook. <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/05/24/evil-facebook-app-exposes_n_587144.html" target="_hplink">According to Scott</a>, "There are uncountable numbers of groups on Facebook called 'lost my phone!!!!! need ur numbers!!!!!' [...] Most of them are marked as 'public', and a lot of folks don't understand what that means in Facebook's context -- to Facebook, 'public' means everyone in the world, whether they're a Facebook member or not."

  • Your Vacation Countdown

    <a href="http://finance.yahoo.com/family-home/article/110674/6-things-you-should-never-reveal-on-facebook" target="_hplink">CBSMoneyWatch.com</a> warns social network users that counting down the days to a vacation can be as negligent as stating how many days the vacation will last. "There may be a better way to say 'Rob me, please' than posting something along the lines of: 'Count-down to Maui! Two days and Ritz Carlton, here we come!' on [a social networking site]. But it's hard to think of one. Post the photos on Facebook when you return, if you like. But don't invite criminals in by telling them specifically when you'll be gone," MoneyWatch <a href="http://finance.yahoo.com/family-home/article/110674/6-things-you-should-never-reveal-on-facebook" target="_hplink">writes</a>.

  • Your Child's Name

    Identity thieves also target children. "Don't use a child's name in photo tags or captions," <a href="http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine-archive/2010/june/electronics-computers/social-insecurity/7-things-to-stop-doing-on-facebook/index.htm" target="_hplink">writes</a> Consumer Reports. "If someone else does, delete it by clicking on Remove Tag. If your child isn't on Facebook and someone includes his or her name in a caption, ask that person to remove the name."

  • Your 'Risky' Behavior

    CBSMoneyWatch.com <a href="http://moneywatch.bnet.com/saving-money/blog/devil-details/6-things-you-should-never-reveal-on-facebook/2360/?tag=content;col1" target="_hplink">writes</a>: <blockquote>You take your classic Camaro out for street racing, soar above the hills in a hang glider, or smoke like a chimney? Insurers are increasingly turning to the web to figure out whether their applicants and customers are putting their lives or property at risk, according to Insure.com.</blockquote> There have been additional <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/02/22/facebook-twitter-users-co_n_471548.html" target="_hplink">reports</a> that insurance companies may adjust users' premiums based what they post to Facebook. Given that criminals are turning to high-tech tools like Google Street View and Facebook to target victims, "I wouldn't be surprised if, as social media grow in popularity and more location-based applications come to fore, insurance providers consider these in their pricing of an individual's risk," <a href="http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/02/22/facebook-twitter-users-co_n_471548.html" target="_hplink">says</a> Darren Black, head of home insurance for Confused.com.

  • The Layout Of Your Home

    <a href="http://identitytheft911.com/company/press/release.ext?sp=11132" target="_hplink">Identity Theft 911</a> reminds Facebook users never to post photos that reveal the layout of an apartment or home and the valuables therein.

  • Your Profile On Public Search

    Do you want your Facebook profile--even bare-bones information like your gender, name, and profile picture--appearing in a Google search? If not, you should should block your profile from appearing in search engine results. Consumer Reports <a href="http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine-archive/2010/june/electronics-computers/social-insecurity/7-things-to-stop-doing-on-facebook/index.htm" target="_blank">advises</a> that doing so will "help prevent strangers from accessing your page." To change this privacy setting, go to Privacy Settings under Account, then Sharing on Facebook.

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